Three masons are missing after they were abducted by suspected Al-Shabaab militants in Mandera County on Wednesday evening.
Police said the victims were masons who were headed to Lafey town for work when the incident happened between Fino and Sheikh Barrow.
The incident happened about 30 kilometers from Lafey town when a public service vehicle the victims were traveling in was flagged down by armed men.
The victims who are non-locals were new there and it is not clear where they are now, police involved in the operation said. There are also fears the incident was the job of local politics and infighting militia.
Regional Police Boss Rono Bunei said Thursday the victims had not been found. He added they are holding the bus driver and turn boy for grilling over the incident.
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“We are wondering how they knew the three were onboard the bus hence the move to hold the crew for questioning,” he said.
Non-locals have been targeted in the area and killed or injured in attacks by suspected militants in efforts to derail development. Two Cuban doctors who were kidnapped from Mandera Town in April 2019 are still operating in Al-Shabaab controlled areas in Somalia.
Lafey was in the news on September 21 when five militants were killed after they had ambushed a military convoy.
At least one security official was killed and two others injured when gunmen believed to be Al-Shabaab terrorists ambushed the convoy at Alungu area, Lafey.
The convoy of Kenya Defence Forces was on the Lafey- Alungu- Elwak Road when it came under attack yesterday at about 6.45am, witnesses and police in the region said.
The team was headed for a local airstrip when the incident happened. A witness said the ambush and subsequent fighting lasted 30 minutes, leaving five militants dead.
Such attacks compounded by Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) have been on the rise in the past months in the region.
The police believe that the militant group still remains the major threat in areas along the common border, noting that the targets include security personnel and establishments along the border as well as commuter vehicles plying routes along the border and coastal region.
Kenya’s Northeastern Region has borne the brunt of grenade and gun attacks in the last several years before and after Kenya sent its troops to Somalia in 2011 to fight Al-Shabab.
Last week, at least three Al-Shabaab militants were killed after an IED they were assembling exploded on them in Fafi, Garissa County.
Officials said four others were injured in the incident and that they were picked up by people in a Toyota Hilux Double Cab vehicle with Somalia registration numbers.
The insurgents have been planting explosives on the roads in the region to target security agents on patrol. Dozens of officials have been killed in the process.
On September 2, an IED set up at Wantey, Bura-Hache in Mandera killed one security official and destroyed an Armoured Personnel Carrier. The personnel were patrolling the area when they stepped on the bomb.
The militants continued to unleash terror this year, killing more than 20 people between January and February in North Eastern and Coast regions.
Bunei said they have enhanced operations to address such incidents.
“We can stop such incidents with the help of locals. No one can plant a bomb on a public road without being seen by locals hence need for their cooperation to stop the trend,” he said.
IEDs have killed dozens of security officials in the region in incidents in the past which were blamed on collaboration between the terrorists and their remnants in the area.
There has been a lull of attacks in the region over the COVID-19 pandemic but they have resumed, with the gangs targeting security agencies.
Kenya launched Operation Linda Nchi on October 14, 2011, after gunmen seized tourists at the Coast which the Government saw as a threat to the country's sovereignty as it targeted the nation's economic lifeline-tourism.
Kenya's incursion into southern Somalia started after the kidnapping of two Spanish women, who were working for MSF at the Dadaab refugee camp.
The abductions were carried out by the militants who the troops said planned to push away under the Operation Linda Nchi.
Two years later, the troops managed to take control of Kismayo port under Operation Sledge Hammer.
The troops have liberated many regions near Kenya's porous border.
Somalia has not had an effective central government since the 1991 overthrow of President Siad Barre's military regime, which ushered in more than two decades of anarchy and conflict in a country deeply divided along clan lines.